I leave the big smoke once more and head off to the Eurobodalla National Park. Never heard of it? Me neither. It's very small, and out here a small Lake Brou comes very close to the Pacific Ocean, with a nice large campground situated on a strip of forested ground in between. The local trees look rather fetching and peculiar, and both the lake and the ocean have plenty to offer in terms of natural beauty.
For now I will set my camp on the quiet Murrumbidgee River. This beautiful spot is situated about 20 km off the town called Hay, and it is completely empty (the spot, of course, not the town), which is exactly the way I like it.
The crazy bushfires of summer have long gone, but the traces of it are still very much present. Blackened tree trunks stretch out as far as the eye can see, and so does the ashen dirt. However, the nature is rapidly recovering itself, and more and more green grass and shoots drape over the desolation and destruction with each passing day. This is what it's like at the Clarence Dam, a small locality in the Blue Mountains not too far away from Lithgow, NSW.
By now I'm back in the Blue Mountains, near a town called Ellenborough. A small park/forest reserve close by is clearly a popular spot among locals and passers-by; I'm lucky enough to find myself a spot in the corner. It's so much more humid here, and a tiny bit colder, but that's fine. The surrounding tree-covered mountain slopes, and a small river nearby, provide me with a few opportunities to take a picture or too.
On the 15th of March I arrive at the Split Rock Dam, which is about 40 minutes north of Tamworth, NSW. The name is not exactly poetic, but the lake itself looks quite lovely, surrounded by gently rising green hills and a surprisingly small amount of campers. This is where I am to spend the upcoming week, so let's see how that goes.
3000 kilometres in 3 days across the scorching hot Australian hinterland in a car without the air con. Sounds like fun, right? I agree, and I can't wait to begin. What better way to end the Christmas holidays and meet the new year!
Camping near Hay turns out to be quite a pleasant experience. The weather's nice (not too hot, not too cold); the flies are there, but not excessively so; and the scenery is definitely worth going out on a sunset or sunrise to take a photograph or two. Thanks to the recent drought, the water levels are quite low (about two meters lower than usual, in fact), but there's still enough for all the pretty reflections and the overall serenity. And the wildlife, of course. My neighbour Robert even says that there are wild pigs somewhere around, but, unfortunately, I fail to spot any.
Well, this has finally happened. I'm moving out without moving in. No rent to pay, no utilities to care about, and no fixed address — apart from the one my friend lent me very graciously, so that I'd have something to put on my driver's licence.
To go back home, I decide to take a slightly longer road via Broken Hill out of sheer curiosity, because I've never been there before. As I leave Melrose, the scenery is still familiar (I've been a few times to this part of South Australia), but after I cross the NSW border, it's all new to me.
The morning of the Christmas Eve finds me deep in the mallee that surrounds our camping spot, where I try to find interesting compositions with the outback vegetation and the rising sun. Nothing particularly interesting eventuates, but that's fine: you win some, you lose some.
The morning at the Kosciuszko is just beautiful. The rising sun coaxes a few strands of mists out of the ground, which travel far and wide along the grass-covered plain between the mountains and the river. With the sun come the kangaroos: a whole herd of them scatters around, foraging for breakfast. A couple of them stops right next to my vehicle, apparently very interested in what I'm having for a brekkie myself. It's the middle of the summer, but the air feels quite shivery: 10 or 12 degrees, maybe? Must be very frosty here, come June or July.
It's kind of pointless to stay home during Christmas and New Year: too many days off, too many destinations to visit. Also, I need to test out a few more items of camping gear that I purchased recently. Time to hit the road again, I think!
Two months of no photography at all is way too much time with no photography at all. Enough is enough! Time to hit the road again, and even if it doesn't take me as far as it often does, there still will be opportunities to capture a good landscape or two. If the scenery, weather, and my own travelling plans all come together, that is.
The rain that was promised has arrived indeed, and it pours slowly over the night and well into the morning. I listen to the rain drops pattering outside the tent as I warm up my instant noodles and eat them with enthusiasm, anticipating my imminent homecoming. After that I pack up my camp (for the last time!) in my rain coat (finally it's getting some use!), rolling up my soaking wet tent as is. The morning is rainy and gloomy when I finally leave the caravan park and deposit the key from the shower block into the mailbox, placed there specifically for the purpose.
In the morning the journey continues. It's quite cool outside now: I'm very much in the temperate climate zone these days, and the autumn is close. Quite a difference from the perpetual 30° in the tropics.
When I wake up before dawn, I quickly boil a few eggs for breakfast, leave a grateful note for Alex and Sarah and jump back into the car: I have to drive on to Sydney, which is almost a thousand kilometres away. However, I make one quick stop on my way in the morning: Byron Bay.
Contrary to my expectations, and despite the sheep bleating constantly at the cattle station nearby, I sleep quite well. Off at 6:50 in the morning. The country is brown, plain and dull at first, but graduately becomes more mild and undulating, with patches of muted green here and there. Lots and lots of kangaroos: I almost hit three of them myself within an hour. Plenty of roadkill, too.
No wind at night = excellent sleep. At least while I'm still travelling with a tent, anyway. I'm off at 7:15, ready to explore my way down south. Coincidentally, this is where the sealed road ends for me as well. I stop to deflate the tyres next to the hotel's amenities block and suddenly discover that they have free showers there (unless you feel like making a gold coin donation at the hotel desk). Well, plenty of time for hygiene later.